Category Archives: Lobbying

Why is this think tank so influential on Tory policy – and who pays for it?

The puppet PM-to-be? Liz Truss appears to be nothing more than a figurehead for shadowy business concerns. Are her strings being pulled by think tanks like Policy Exchange?

Remember the report the Tories pushed into both Houses of Parliament three years ago, attempting to claim that Extinction Rebellion is a terrorist organisation and its protests should be stopped?

A few months later it was revealed that ER had been listed as an “extremist ideology”, to be referred to the Prevent programme – which aims to safeguard vulnerable people from being drawn into terrorism.

There was a row, and then the reference was described as an error and removed.

But it is widely agreed that the report played a large role in the drafting of Priti Patel’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act which heavily restricts protest, criminalises many peaceful actions, disproportionately targets minority groups including  people of colour and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.

The report had been published by Policy Exchange, a right-wing think tank that is part of the Tufton Street Brexit Nexus which

ties together fossil fuel interests, climate denial groups and a whole array of Brexit campaigns, pushing for a deregulated low-tax playing field pushing profit and growth over people and planet. As well as close ties to most of the current Conservative right politicians, they reach deep into the media, influencing the output of the Telegraph and Spectator, as well as the Times, Mail, Express and Sun.

We don’t know the names of everybody who funds this organisation, but information that is available shows that its work – and therefore Conservative Party policy – is being driven by private business interests:

As well as receiving around £3million per year from undisclosed donors, it has received ‘sponsorship’ money from many UK energy companies for arranging meetings with government ministers, and these included Drax, E.On, Centrica, and lobbyist Energy UK. It also receives money from ‘American Friends of Policy Exchange’, a US non-profit organisation supporting Policy Exchange UK and backed by mainly anonymous donors. They were listed in a 2017 ExxonMobil worldwide-giving report  as receiving a $30,000 donation from the giant fossil fuel corporation. ExxonMobil has spent vast sums over decades on promoting climate denial.

And think about this:

Policy Exchange also funds something called the Judicial Power Project which seeks to limit the rights of our justice system to rein in the power of government ministers or question unfair or draconian legislation. Under the guise of concern over “how and by whom public power is exercised”, it’s basically pushing for more power for heavily-lobbied ministers along with less accountability to a judicial system that may be more resistant to corporate influence.

Other changes suggested by Policy Exchange include calls for amendments to the Overseas Operations Bill, giving soldiers impunity for war crimes, and for government control over appointments of judges; and it has published a major study on “judicial interference” over the government’s Rwanda deal and other anti-asylum proposals. The project strongly influenced the tabling of the Judicial Review Act, which limits citizens’ ability to challenge government decisions in court.

And now, as RealMedia points out,

we are about to face a leader elected by a tiny unrepresentative club, advised by secretly-funded policy units, and cheered on by a media owned by its rich friends and donors.

This will get messy and you will probably be badly harmed by what these people will do. The big question is: how long are you going to let them do it?

Source: The hidden forces pushing change in our democracy and rights – Real Media – The View From Below

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Another Tory faces investigation over lobbying

Andrew Bridgen: under investigation.

It seems Tory MPs have been doing their best to change the name of their party from “Conservatives” to “The Accused”.

Latest in the long line of Tories facing allegations – a line that includes Owen Paterson (accused of the same offence) and prime minister Boris Johnson himself – is Andrew Bridgen.

It is claimed that he has accepted £5,000 in return for lobbying on behalf of a firm; he allegedly raised its tax issues with a relevant minister.

Details of the story, including Bridgen’s denial, are available here.

The key to this is that MPs are not allowed to take money for raising issues in the House of Commons or with ministers.

If that’s what standards commissioner Kathryn Stone decides has happened, then Bridgen will be in the same kind of trouble that faced Paterson.

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Ex-MP Paterson PESTERED government for Randox & PM defended him. Johnson is the problem

Boris Johnson and Owen Paterson: if the prime minister was prepared to twist Parliamentary rules for this corporate shill, then he certainly can’t be trusted to clean up Downing Street.

If you needed proof that Boris Johnson won’t fix the culture of rule-breaking in Downing Street – because he is the problem – it’s in the way he protected Owen Paterson’s persistent lobbying.

Paterson – now the former MP for North Shropshire – was being paid £8,333 per month for 16 hours’ work as a consultant for health firm Randox when he started pestering then-Health Secretary Matt Hancock on the company’s behalf.

His lobbing started in January 2020 – two months before Boris Johnson accepted the seriousness of Covid-19 and locked the UK down.

And he wouldn’t wait for a decision. Here’s the timeline according to Sky News:

WhatsApp messages show Mr Paterson gave Mr Hancock Randox boss Dr Peter Fitzgerald’s contact details on 26 January 2020.

Mr Paterson said he told Mr Fitzgerald to “expect an email” from the health secretary, who contacted the Randox boss that night.

Mr Hancock then told Mr Paterson on 5 February 2020 that Public Health England (PHE) would be in touch with Mr Fitzgerald “directly”.

On 25 February, Mr Paterson again contacted Mr Hancock, saying Randox had not been contacted by the government for 19 days, while its test kits had been shipped to “China, Mexico, Ukraine, Oman, Tunisia and Guatemala”.

He added: “PHE’s attitude looks incomprehensible given current developments” and said there was “absolutely no sense of urgency”.

Forwarding Mr Paterson’s messages on to officials, Mr Hancock [said] he was “very worried about this… If we are treating other companies like this we are failing.”

Randox was awarded its £133 million contract in March 2020. It was a closed process – unadvertised and with no other companies being asked to bid.

In later messages, before a meeting, a senior official in then-health minister Lord Bethell’s office said on 11 May 2020: “Lord Bethell has indicated that he would like a 1:1 with Owen Patterson [sic] beforehand as well (who I understand is a consultant employed by Randox).”

This may correspond with the information we had that, a month after the contract was awarded, Paterson was a party to a call between Randox and James Bethell, then the Tory minister responsible for Covid-19 testing supplies.

We know that there was concern in July 2020 about Randox testing kits.

Randox was hired to supply 2.7 million testing kits – but 750,000 of them were withdrawn after spot checks in July 2020 found that some of the kits, supplied by a Chinese manufacturer but sent out by Randox, were not sterile and could therefore be contaminated.

The failure delayed plans to provide regular testing for English care home residents and staff. We later discovered that Tory government failures to protect care homes resulted in around 30,000 unnecessary deaths.

But in September 2020, Mr Paterson sent a WhatsApp message asking Mr Hancock to “revisit even briefly and privately” the long-term future of Randox’s involvement in testing, as he had visited the firm in Northern Ireland for the first time and was impressed.

He added there was “widespread exasperation that Randox’s achievements have not been promoted”.

Randox’s contract was extended for a further six months in October 2020. Again, the process was closed – unadvertised, with no other companies permitted to bid.

In October 2020, Mr Paterson complained that a story in The Guardian said the government “only gave Randox the testing contract because I’m a paid consultant”.

He asked Mr Hancock: “If it comes up, can you kill this once and for all as I know absolutely nothing about the contact?”

Mr Hancock replied: “Of course.”

Well, hang on a second, there. Paterson contacted Hancock to secure a contract for Randox to supply test kits in January 2020, then followed this up the following month; Randox got its contract in March.

He was involved in some way in at least one meeting between the government and Randox.

And after Randox’s kits were found to be potentially contaminated, Paterson went back to demand that its contract should be “revisited”, and it was renewed very soon afterwards.

And then, in the very month the Randox contract was renewed – at his urging – Paterson secured Hancock’s collusion in misleading the public that he had nothing to do with it!

Here’s the topper, though:

Also revealed was the fact Lord Agnew, who suddenly resigned last month as the minister in charge of tackling COVID fraud, warned Mr Hancock the government was “paying dramatically over the odds” for Randox’s tests.

So not only was Paterson instrumental in securing and renewing the Randox contract but the company received more than the going rate – in public money – for its services.

This Writer doesn’t blame Randox for any of this wrongdoing; it is a commercial firm and was acting in its interests.

But Paterson was clearly breaking Parliamentary rules on lobbying by MPs – which is what the Standards Commissioner found after an investigation.

Now, here’s why Boris Johnson can’t be trusted to end the kind of corruption that led to members of the government in Downing Street holding lockdown-busting parties while the rest of us suffered:

Instead of accepting a ruling against his MP, he tried to change the rules to get rid of the person who made it, and to ensure that corporate sponsorship of Tory MPs would be legalised.

Perhaps Johnson hadn’t seen the WhatsApp messages mentioned above, but he had seen the evidence that had gone before Kathryn Stone, and his first instinct was to use his own powers to make changes that override it.

His reason? We think it’s that Paterson’s penalty was 30 days’ suspension from Parliament, which would have exposed him to a possible recall petition from his constituents, who could then vote him out in a by-election.

Johnson couldn’t bear that – even though he had an 80-seat Parliamentary majority.

So he decided to change the rules – in all our faces – instead.

And now another inquiry has shown that the Downing Street parties were symptomatic of a failure of standards in the government.

Johnson’s first instinct has been to make changes.

Logic – and the precedent created by Paterson – tells us those changes would be to ensure nobody ever again finds out what goes on in Downing Street, or to put that address above the law that affects every other location in the UK.

That is why Johnson is the problem. And that’s why he has to go.

Source: Owen Paterson: Disgraced former Tory MP’s WhatsApp messages to Matt Hancock reveal extent of lobbying | Politics News | Sky News

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Starmer is letting Tories order him around. Is this an unexpected twist in the lobbying scandal?

Keir Starmer: the face of shame, again.

We all know the Board of Deputies of British Jews is dominated by Conservatives, don’t we?

The use of anti-Semitism accusations may therefore be seen as a way for Tories to exert unwarranted influence over the Labour Party.

Now it seems they are extending that influence – by which I mean the following:

Labour leader Keir Starmer let a Tory-run organisation order him to reject an invitation to an interfaith event.

The Board of Deputies told Starmer to avoid the virtual Iftar event because one of its organisers is a member of Cage, an international advocacy organisation with a focus on Muslim detainees and communities impacted by the so-called War on Terror.

Apparently this person had shared a demand for a boycott of Israeli dates.

Is it true? Were there good reasons for it if it was? These questions are relevant but don’t really affect the core issue.

What matters is that Starmer let a Tory group order him around and that will never be acceptable in a Labour Party representative.

And at a time when he is trying to make mud stick on Boris Johnson and the Tories for letting former MPs and ministers, party donors and friends influence them, it is shocking that Starmer would show himself to be so easily-led by a Tory-led group.

The Twitterati have been having a field day:

This can only do further harm to Starmer’s chances in the local elections…

… but right-wing Labour is spinning like a top in its efforts to make him look supportable.

Labour is plummeting in the polls, with Starmer’s leadership the clearest reason, but that didn’t stop Peter – sorry, Lord – Mandelson taking a pop at former leader Jeremy Corbyn. He told Huffington Post‘s Paul Waugh:

“The memory of Jeremy Corbyn is still strong on the doorsteps amongst Labour voters here, it’s still coming up and I’m afraid we have still got some way to go before we rebuild the confidence and trust that we just threw away.”

No, Peter. It’s your boy Starmer who’s throwing away confidence and trust.

Meanwhile, the object of the Right’s continued enmity has managed to remain astonishingly equivocal about Starmer – but still couldn’t manage to say anything nice about him when questioned by LBC’s Iain Dale:

It is a class act – especially in contrast to that of Starmerites like Mandelson.

They fling dirt at Corbyn thick and fast – while he merely comments from experience about what a Labour leader should do.

One thing a Labour leader should never do is be seen to allow Tories to dictate his schedule to him.

Source: Starmer withdraws from Ramadan interfaith event after Board of Deputies warning | Jewish News

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Johnson didn’t have power to change tax rules for Dyson, says former Attorney-General. Was Major Corruption lying AGAIN?

Boris Johnson: he should hang his head in shame. Sadly, he doesn’t have the self-awareness – this shot is just of him checking his notes at a prime ministerial broadcast.

Boris Johnson’s claim that he arranged a tax break for James Dyson was impossible because he doesn’t have the power, according to former Attorney-General (the government’s top lawyer) Dominic Grieve.

Johnson defended himself during Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday (April 21) after evidence emerged that Dyson had contacted him by texting his personal telephone, asking for tax breaks so Dyson staff who had relocated to Singapore after Brexit could return to the UK and build ventilators to tackle Covid-19 without paying tax penalties.

Johnson’s responses are shown in this tweet:

His responses in PMQs were that he refused to accept criticism for doing everything he could to ensure that the UK had the equipment it needed to fight the Covid crisis.

(This is risible when we remember that successive Conservative governments including Johnson’s had systematically weakened the nation’s ability to respond to a pandemic crisis, including selling PPE to China.)

In the end, Dyson provided no ventilators at all.

On the BBC’s Newsnight, former A-G Dominic Grieve made the legal situation abundantly clear:

So either Boris Johnson corruptly and illegally influenced the tax system so this industrialist, who campaigned for Brexit and then scarpered abroad to escape the consequences, could profit from a crisis…

… or everything he can do to secure help for the UK in a crisis is in fact nothing at all.

Major Corruption has shot himself in the foot, it seems.

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Lobbying corruption: Johnson caught promising Covid tax breaks to Dyson – who then provided NOTHING

Boris Johnson and James Dyson: could any of us have won tax breaks from the prime minister, if only we’d had his personal phone number?

Boris Johnson offered to “fix” the tax status of Dyson staff so they could work in the UK to provide ventilators in last year’s Covid-19 crisis – after Dyson sent a text message to the prime minister’s personal phone.

Dyson went on to provide absolutely no ventilators at all. Did his employees still get preferential tax status?

That is just one of the important questions that Johnson didn’t answer during Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday.

The revelation is the latest development in the lobbying-related corruption scandal that began when former PM David Cameron’s activities on behalf of now-collapsed financier Greensill Capital came to light.

The BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg reported that

the PM assured businessman Sir James Dyson that his employees would not have to pay extra tax if they came to the UK to make ventilators during the pandemic.

Sir James, whose firm is now based in Singapore, wrote to the Treasury to ask for no change in tax status for staff.

But the BBC has seen text messages sent in March 2020 that show Sir James then went directly to the PM, with Mr Johnson replying: “I will fix it.”

She added, in an opinion piece on the subject,

There are thousands of different circumstances in which having those discussions is perfectly valid.

What about however, when the most powerful politician in the country sends a direct message to an influential businessman promising: “I will fix it tomo”?

A good question – and one that Johnson was asked (if not in so many words) by Keir Starmer shortly after midday yesterday (April 21).

He asked: “What is the right thing to do if he receives a text from a billionaire Conservative supporter asking him to fix tax rules.”

Johnson replied: “I make absolutely no apology for doing everything I could to secure ventilators for the people of this country.”

The trouble is, of course, that he didn’t secure any ventilators, despite having fixed tax rules for his supporter.

He said he had done “everything I could” so we may conclude that he did change the rules for Dyson employees.

But – I reiterate – Dyson did not provide any ventilators:

So we need to know what Dyson did with the tax breaks his firm received and whether he still benefits from them now, despite not having done what he promised to do.

Or did Johnson lie about doing “everything” he could?

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Tory corruption is here to stay, judging by the people involved in the Greensill scandal

Snout in the trough (all right – bucket): perhaps the Conservatives should rename themselves the Corruption Party?

A lobbyist is running the Tory government’s inquiry into the Greensill scandal.

A lobbyist is running Parliament’s watchdog on lobbying.

And more people in public life are being identified as employees of the collapsed finance firm Greensill Capital, meaning their loyalties were divided between working for the public good and making profits for this private company. And this is just one firm. How many other MPs, former MPs and people in charge of other public organisations are also enmired in this corruption?

Consider this:

For those who can’t read images well, it says the government review of lobbying is being headed by Nigel Boardman, a consultant with law firm Slaughter & May – which lobbied against tightening lobbying laws.

It seems clear that the ‘fix’ is in – anyone who works for a firm that wants more freedom to lobby the government won’t find any corruption in David Cameron’s activities for Greensill, right?

Now let’s look at how Parliament got into a position where a former prime minister was able to insinuate himself into the corridors of power on behalf of his new employer and influence current ministers to provide Greensill with huge amounts of public money. Why didn’t the lobbying watchdog spot it and put a stop to it?

Here‘s iNews:

A senior member of the Government’s own lobbying watchdog runs his own firm advertising his access to ministers at the highest echelons of power.

Andrew Cumpsty sits on the Government’s Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba), and boasts of his access to Cabinet ministers.

Do you think that might have something to do with how the rot has set in so far?

And then there’s this:

Hogan-Howe – now a Lord, and therefore well-placed to put in a good word for his employers – has only been discovered because of the focus on Greensill.

But how many other firms have their fingers in government pies via members of Parliament they just happen to have in their pockets?

And how much are our MPs and former MPs earning from second (or third, or fourth, or however many) jobs with these organisations?

Yes, there’s a Parliamentary inquiry happening, independently of Boris Johnson’s Slaughter & May-led whitewash, but that won’t go far enough either.

We need a full investigation into the current employment situations of all former MPs. Do they work for firms that have government contracts and, if so, how were those contracts secured?

Let’s find out how deep the rot has set in.

Because if we don’t – and if we don’t then clear it all out – then we may as well accept that Tory corruption is here to stay; it isn’t only part of the fabric of political life – it is the heart of the UK’s politics.

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Greensill: further evidence of Cameron’s corruption comes to light

David Cameron: does he regret his involvement with Greensill? Doubtful. Who knows what other connections he lined up for himself while he was supposed to be serving the public in 10 Downing Street?

It seems that after ensuring that a financial services firm he had welcomed into Whitehall could continue lobbying the government, David Cameron did his best to profit from it.

That is the heart of the Greensill scandal, although some of the reporting of it seems vague on the subject.

Cameron ensured that his Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act would not stop firms like Greensill from persuading government ministers to give them money.

Then, after he left Parliament, he took a job with Greensill – and lobbied his former colleagues on Greensill’s behalf.

Now it has emerged that he stood to benefit from a £21.8 million employee benefit trust, and the implication is that this is the reason he lobbied hard for the firm during the Covid-19 crisis, when it was about to go bust.

Now that the firm has been dissolved, of course, his shares are worth nothing.

“Good thing too,” you might say. “He’s had his comeuppance and there’s the end of the matter!”

Well, no.

You see, it stinks of corruption.

We have not just a former minister but a former prime minister who paved the way for his future employers to have access to government funding, then took a job at that company in order to enjoy the profits from that arrangement.

He also lobbied the government on behalf of that company – using loopholes he had made in the law while he had been prime minister – in order to safeguard his own future income.

We have no reason to believe that Greensill was a suitable firm to receive government investment. Indeed, the government’s reluctance to award contracts to the firm, and withdrawal of permission for it to access Covid-related financial aid schemes, suggests strongly that it was not.

The social media are abuzz with this – with much of the gossip focusing on a suggestion that Cameron relied on the “old boy network” to have his way – going to former Eton schoolmate Boris Johnson (the current PM) for help:

This supports the claim that the Tories are sinking in their own corruption. Everybody in the UK needs to know about this, so they can make an educated choice on whether they want continued Tory rule.

Remember: the rest of us were struggling to cope with Cameron-imposed austerity while he was (allegedly) planning to rake in the millions with this now-collapsed company.

And while Matt Hancock, Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson are all now enmired in the Greensill allegations alongside Cameron – and Johnson in corruption allegations of his own connected to Jennifer Arcuri, we are still struggling to cope with austerity.

The sheer self-serving greed of these Tories is a blight on every citizen of the United Kingdom.

Source: Cameron ‘lobbied senior Downing St aide and Matt Hancock’ to help Greensill | David Cameron | The Guardian

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Greensill controversy proves Cameron’s lobbying law was NOT about restricting lobbyists

Cameron: we used to joke about him often having spit dribbling down his chin – maybe he was salivating at the thought of all the money he was (allegedly) lining up for himself post-premiership.

Remember the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act that David Cameron forced on us, back in 2014?

Some of us called it the “Gagging Act” because we knew it was about preventing some organisations and individuals from having a voice in Westminster.

You see, the remit of the lobbying and non-party campaigning part of the act was extremely narrow.

Of course, this meant it also allowed others to carry on bending the ears of government ministers, and I seem to recall that concerns were raised about high-level MPs receiving payoffs from these people in return for privileged access…

…Or indeed, taking jobs for these people – as seems to be the case with former Prime Minister David Cameron.

We need to get our ducks in the right row here, though: Lex Greensill, of financial services firm Greensill Capital, is alleged to have been afforded privileged access to government departments in 2012, two years before the Lobbying Act became law. That would not have been illegal at the time – would it?

Apparently Greensill had been promoting a financial product for pharmacists – The Pharmacy Early Payment Scheme, announced in 2012, that saw banks swiftly reimburse pharmacists for providing NHS prescriptions, for a fee, before recovering the money from the government.

Greensill Capital went on to provide funds for the scheme.

It was later accredited to supply lending under the government’s Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS), before Greensill went bust.

The dodgy part is Cameron’s role. He would have been responsible for giving Greensill privileged access in 2012.

He would have been able to ensure that the 2014 law did not affect that privileged position – by narrowing criteria to make sure that Greensill didn’t have to appear on the register of lobbyists, perhaps.

He definitely joined Greensill – as a lobbyist – in 2018 and lobbied on behalf of that firm. The Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists, investigating, has ruled that Cameron’s activities did not fall within the criteria that required him to be registered as one – according to rules laid out in Cameron’s 2014 Lobbying law.

It looks very much like Cameron rigged the law to make it possible for him to feather his own nest. That would be a serious case of corruption, of course.

He certainly seems to have blocked rules that would now apply to him.

It will be interesting to see how this turns out.

Source: Lex Greensill: Labour questions ex-adviser’s No 10 business card – BBC News

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The influence of ‘big tobacco’ isn’t limited to think tanks: former minister Priti Patel was a lobbyist

Priti Patel: A former lobbyist for ‘big tobacco’.

Following the revelation that the Institute of Economic Affairs think tank is a lobbyist for British American Tobacco and for companies producing food that harms health – and also a major donor to the Conservative Party – does anybody remember this?

Priti Patel, the former International Development Secretary who was forced to resign after apparently conducting her own foreign policy in Israel, also lobbied for BAT, albeit in her former employment for a PR firm:

The employment minister, Priti Patel, was part of a team of spin doctors paid hundreds of thousands of pounds to help a tobacco giant counter negative publicity, including that surrounding its joint venture with one of the world’s most brutal military regimes.

Documents unearthed by the Observer shine new light on Patel’s work for Shandwick, a lobbying and PR firm that worked for British American Tobacco (BAT) in the early years of this century.

The documents, released by BAT following a legal action, show that Patel was one of seven employees used by Shandwick on the account. One of her jobs was to lobby MEPs against the introduction of the EU tobacco control directive, which was introduced shortly after the new millennium.

In 2001, Shandwick drew up plans to invoice BAT for 279 hours of its work a month, of which Patel’s contribution amounted to 100 hours. BAT was charged £165 an hour for Patel’s services. The entire team was on a monthly retainer of nearly £40,000 – a total of almost £500,000 a year.

Firms like BAT are major donors to the Conservative Party, while people like the IEA and Ms Patel were instrumental in pushing their agendas onto politicians – and onto the public through political discussion shows like the BBC’s Question Time.

These people betray the public trust because they present the desires of corporate bosses as the needs of the nation. And then you wonder why the environment is going to ruin…

Source: Minister worked as spin doctor for tobacco giant that paid workers £15 a month | Business | The Guardian

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